Whether you are a hardcore carnivore who is already a lover of dry aging, or you have recently discovered the art, you may be interested in learning more about the dry aging process. In this article we explore each phase of dry aging so you can understand how dry aging works and what to expect when it comes to the timescale of taste, texture and tenderness.
What is dry aging?
Put simply, dry aging is the controlled decomposition of meat. Although it doesn’t sound particularly glamorous or appealing, its ability to naturally amplify the flavors and enhance the texture of meat is unmatched. Dry aging works by slowly drawing out the moisture from the meat, and as this moisture is lost, the flavours become much more concentrated resulting in a truly flavorful piece of meat.
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After the first week of the dry aging process the main structural protein of the beef will have begun to break down. Despite this, it is too early in the dry aging process to actually see and taste any difference. The beef will still be bright in colour and it is too early to be officially classified as ‘aged’ if sold. The dry aging process takes much longer to develop its distinct flavor profile and succulent texture typical of dry aged beef.
It is recommended that if you want to successfully achieve the effects associated with dry aging, it is best to leave your beef for a minimum of 20-30 days.
At the 20-30 day range, your beef is now generally considered to be dry aged and this is the sweet spot that is popular amongst most. At this point around 10%-15% of the original weight will have been lost as a result of evaporation due to moisture being slowly drawn out of the meat to concentrate its flavor. You can expect a more rich and umami taste at this phase and may notice that the beef has started to darken in colour.
If you are a hardcore carnivore and can truly appricuate the taste of dry aged beef, you may feel confident enough to age your beef for 45-60 days. We recommend 45 days if you don’t want the taste to be too overpowering. By this point, the beef will have only lost a fraction more of its weight and will have developed a considerably more pungent taste which some describe to resemble cheese.
60 days onwards
It is possible to dry age beef for upwards of 60 days, just remember that the longer the beef ages, the more incense the flavors will become. At around 90 days the bold notes of blue cheese will only get stronger and you will notice a white crust that has developed around the outside of the meat to protect it, abit like the rind of cheese.
At 120 days and onwards, the meat will have lost at least 35% of its original weight making it have a considerable loss in yield, however, the flavors will be unlike anything you have ever tasted, expect bold, funky notes. Beef is rarely ever aged for this long and when it is, it is difficult to find. This is due to the risk of spoilage, the time it takes, loss of yield and its completely individual flavor.
Original dry aging method VS dry aging today
Dry aging is said to date back as far as prehistoric times as a method of meat preservation. Caves would have been used to store and age the meat due to their ideal temperature and humidity levels making it the perfect environment for dry aging. As society progressed, so did methods of meat preservation, cellars were often build in houses so meat would have been aged and stored in these cool underground rooms. Once refrigeration was invented, there was no longer a need for cellars, nor a need for meat preservation techniques because refrigeration allowed produce to remain fresh for longer periods of time.
Today, dry aging is primarily used as a way to enhance the flavor and texture of meat rather than preserve it. Infact, dry aging has become such a popular delicacy, companies like Steak Locker have developed a specially designed dry aging fridge range dedicated to dry aging meat. Steak Locker are the leading dry age fridge retailer and their products feature some impressive benefits, such as a germicidal UV light, integrated smart app which allows you to monitor the progress of your meat and control temperature and humidity levels and more. Dry aging has never been easier.